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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gearing up

A mix of old and new camera traps ready for the field.
Large cases contain 2D-cells as backup power; 
small cases contain 4 AA cells as backup power.

I've been gearing up to deploy additional cams at the Chimineas Ranch and Marin County.

Seven camera traps were out of order, and parts for 5 additional units had been accumulating dust and dog hair for several months.

When I started home-brewing my own camera traps I often encountered problems, and I always thought it was due to some technical failure beyond my limited knowledge of electronics. 

The problem was almost always due to dying or dead batteries in the camera or controller. 

So I got in the habit of using the multimeter, and when something goes wrong the first thing I check are the batteries. 

Weak batteries however were not the problem in these cameras.

The easiest fix only required tweaking.

It was a case of lens impotence.

The lens would struggle to extend while grinding noisily for several seconds, and then it would suddenly appear.

By then of course the animal that triggered the camera was long gone.   

All it needed was tough love. 

Believe it or not, you can fix a jammed lens motor by slamming the camera in your hand while the lens gear is grinding. 

More often however, finding what doesn't work requires fairly simple trouble shooting.

Test the camera with a functional controller,  and vice versa until you know what component has failed.  

Then test the wired circuits for continuity.

Very often there is a short, a solder contact has broken, or a wire has been pinched. 

I repaired 4 of the units by replacing controllers or rewiring the cameras, built 5 new units with new Sony s600s and YetiCam controllers, and laid one camera to rest -- a source of spare parts.  

Fixing a camera makes you feel pretty good.

Sometimes you even hear trumpets blaring that familiar theme from Rocky.  


Owlman said...

I admire the fact that you can put camera traps together and fix them.
Easy for you but not not I.

brdpics said...

I love your percussive maintenance method of fixing a sticky lens mechanism...

Jace Stansbury said...


Can you point me in the right direction where I can find instructions on building my own cameras? Dude, you need to write a book on this!


Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks guys, and Jace, check out the Forums and Chat groups listed on the right hand side of the CTC page. You'll need some time to read the home brew pdfs and threads on the various hacks for Sony, Nikon, Olympus cameras etc. The guys who participate in the chat groups are great coaches and advisors. The chat groups also list the suppliers of camera trap parts, so you will want to go directly to the suppliers' webpages to scope out the parts. For starters, the kits are a good way to go. You will get all the parts ready to assemble except for the camera, which you have to buy and hack according to the illustrated manuals which you can download from the websites. It's a little scary at first if you do it on your own, but after you do a few it becomes quite easy. Good luck.

randomtruth said...

Woohoo! More cameras! More cameras!

Jace - to augment the Codger's good words on cams, I'm finding that the Yeti folks seem to have great kits, and a smartly run shop.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I found this post when I googled "camera trap hack". I'm interested in modifying a motion-triggered camera to take still photos when it detects a lack of motion instead of motion.

Do you think this is even possible?

If so, where would a severely electronically challenged person go to either pay for help or get really detailed advice on how to make the necessary modifications to the right piece of equipment?

Camera Trap Codger said...

smartdogs, go to this link:
and get in touch with Bob Scriver listed therein. He really knows hsi stuff when it comes to modifying cameras for remote function.